Remote work–when done well–holds numerous benefits, including boosts to productivity and job satisfaction. Yet having arrived as a result of mandatory isolation measures amidst the COVID-19 crisis, this global work-from-home experiment has likely been more of a stressful experience than a welcome policy for newly remote teams.

However, that’s not to say that the advantages of flexible working policies shouldn’t be explored, post-pandemic. In fact, many big names in tech have come out and said that they will be allowing their teams to work remotely “forever,” including Twitter and Shopify.

Those companies adopting a new approach to distributed work must however offer it alongside an employee wellness programme that’s tailored to the policy. Leading players such as Google, Fitbit, and Zappos have been championing employee wellness for years, but with the increased risks to mental and physical health that remote work can bring, all organizations must make it a top priority.

Here’s how to encourage worker well-being during the new remote work normal.

Encourage active breaks

Without the distractions of the physical workplace, it can be easy for employees to sit at their computers all day without taking a break from screens or moving their bodies. In fact, home workers in particular have been shown to take shorter and fewer breaks than their in-office counterparts. This is particularly dangerous, as being too sedentary throughout the day can lead to long-term health problems, such as increased blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

By taking active breaks where team members get up, stretch, go for a short walk outside, or do a chore around the house, they can not only ward off physical health problems, but can also prevent work-related burnout and reduce stress.

In order to encourage this, team leaders should showcase how they’re taking active breaks themselves by changing their online status, leaving slots for breaks in their calendar, or even sharing photos with the rest of the team. This is vital so that employees know that they can do the same without penalization.

Create opportunities for social interaction

Building social connections between remote employees is often cited as one of the hardest parts of managing remote teams, due to the difficulty of “fostering a sense of connection without a shared location.” However, facilitating social interaction is a non-negotiable part of remote employee wellness, as the consequences of loneliness become even more prevalent in modern society.

You can create the space for non-work related interactions throughout the work day by setting up “watercooler” or coffee break channels where team members can dip in and out for a catch up with their coworkers, just like they would in the office. For a longer chance to connect, set up virtual lunches, happy hours, or even follow-along exercise classes to get people moving.

Provide ergonomic solutions

You wouldn’t let your staff work in an uncomfortable environment that compromises their health, so why do so when they’re working from home? At home, employees may not have access to the same ergonomic solutions that are available in the office. Providing furniture and hardware to ensure that your team’s set-up isn’t hindering their health is a great way to promote wellness and job satisfaction.

Ergonomic chairs are proven to improve posture and prevent the aches and pains that come from sitting uncomfortably, while other active sitting solutions and standing desks allow you to keep certain muscle groups engaged while working. You can also provide ergonomic keyboards, mice, or desk monitors to prevent neck and wrist strain.

Keep tabs on mental health

While flexible working can improve the mental health of many workers, it also presents more opportunities for feelings of isolation and burnout. In fact, our daily interactions with others are shown to contribute towards our general sense of well-being and belonging to a community, yet studies have found that a considerable amount of home workers report feeling lonely.

Team leaders should stay alert as to the mental health of their employees by conducting frequent check-in meetings and keeping a lookout for tell-tale signs of someone struggling, such as a dip in productivity. You can also actively share links and resources for any employees that might need to seek professional help, or, if you can afford it, provide the means for staff to access counselling should they want to.

Worker wellness should always be a priority for your business, but if you’re considering riding the remote work wave and exploring all it has to offer, you need to adopt a special approach. By encouraging healthy habits and social interaction, and paying close attention to each individual’s mental well-being, you let your team know you really care and can begin to explore the wonders of remote work.

Chen Raizman is the CEO of The ActiveSeatCo.

Mental health stock photo by fizkes/Shutterstock